Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Requiem for a Toaster

My toaster quit working a couple of days ago. Whatever the mechanism that clicks when you push the slide lever down didn't click and stop at the bottom. The heating element wires, therefore, didn't engage. I could have lived with holding it down manually while the heating element did its thing, but even that doesn't work.

It wasn't an old toaster, like toasters should be. It was a relatively new toaster -- maybe two years I've had it. It replaced a toaster I had had for maybe 25 years. Toaster should live long lives and be productive and provide satisfaction beyond measure to their masters.

A toaster should last 25 years -- if not longer. Toasting bread caramelizes the sugars and starches and gives bread that little extra sweetness and crunchiness we like. According to an internet Toaster History site, "Infrared radiation is the key to making toast. Direct heating of bread to at least 310 degrees Fahrenheit triggers what food chemists call the Maillard reaction, in which sugars and amino acids in the bread react to form numerous flavorful compounds responsible for the change in the bread’s taste, color, and aroma. The Maillard reaction also reduces the bread’s water content by about two-thirds, making the toast crunchy." With a bit of peanut butter and some home made pear jelly, man, is that good.

You've got to eat it while it's still warm though, so the race from the toaster to the peanut butter, and then to the home made pear jelly requires steadfastness of purpose, quick reflexes, and a coordinated plan: pour the cold milk ahead of time, have a small plate ready, open the peanut butter and jelly jars, and set the knife astride the open peanut butter jar, and then, and only then, put the bread in the slots of the toaster, and depress the lever.

Do not be distracted. And I might add, even if the phone rings, stay focused on your efforts. Do not answer the door. Focus. And be ready. The toaster in question had an overactive thyroid or something because it tended to fling the toast with some velocity so that if you were attentive and your reflexes were still sharp, you could catch the toast in mid air. If not, then it would sometimes be flung completely out of the toaster and land on my kitchen counter.

Once the toast is ejected, with deft strokes, the thin layer of peanut butter goes down, and the spoon sized globs of pear jelly are applied and then gently crushed and distributed without disturbing the now melting layer of peanut butter.

Whether one slice of bread or two, the race is now on. Grabbing the milk in one and and rushing to my favorite easy chair, my leather Barca Lounger, I anticipate that first bite and that cold splash of milk that follows.

Oh, man, is that good.

But, alas, the toaster no longer functions. We've sent men to the moon, and vehicles to every planet, the sun, and even out of the solar system - Voyager continues on its way how many decades now......

We've built computer storage devices we can now measure in the terraquads.

Nanobots will someday clean our arteries and repair damage in our hearts, and
lungs, and who knows what else.

But my toaster is kaput.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What I Still tell my Son when Dropping him off at School - updated June 2010

Here's what I tell my son every morning when I drop him off at school. I've recited these words of advice hundreds, if not thousands, of times since he was in kindergarten -- with a few modifications along the way. He's a Sophomore this school year.

Have a nice day.
Play nice with the kids.
Help the teacher.
Follow the rules.
Be smart. Act smart. Raise your hand. Ask good questions, including "What could possibly go wrong?" And remember, if an idiot would do it, don't do it.
Learn some high school sh**.

No unauthorized leaping, prancing, dancing, dashing, mashing, pouncing, jouncing, jousting, rousting, skipping, bipping, ripping.

If you see any of the following falling from the sky, run for cover: giant construction cranes, lawnmowers, chain saws, frozen donkeys, dump trucks, refrigerators or other large appliances, dump trucks, derelict Soviet space satellites; pretty much anything.

If you see an alien spacecraft, let me know. If elephants parachute into the parking lot, give me a call.

Do not knock the building down; do not flush your shoes and/or electronic equipment of any size down the toilet (this took on special meaning after he flushed his cell phone down the school toilet--it's a funny story).

Eat all your lunch. Don't eat any giant bugs, worm spaghetti, eyeball soup, weasel spit, beaver barf, fish entrails, platypus lips, hippopotamus hips, buffalo chips, or squid lips. Don't eat anything that Andrew Zimmern, Les Stroud, or Bear Gryll would eat on a regular basis. Anthony Bourdain is not totally insane; Rachael Ray is certainly okay.

Do not put peanut butter in your butt crack, honey in your belly button, or cactus in your underwear. And remember - bananas and coconuts are not armadillos, do not dance the rhumba, and do not change the oil in daddy's car on a regular basis, or any basis for that matter.

If you follow these simple rules, you will have a fine, marvelous, wonderful, inspirational, fun, exciting, memorable, educational, swell at Bellevue East High School, Bellevue, Ne, United States of America, North American Continent, North American and Atlantic tectonic plate which also includes Japan, on the planet Earth, which is 2/3 covered by water you can't drink, in the solar system of our sun, a medium sized yellow star, one star among 400 billion stars in our galaxy, located on the Orion spur of the Sagitarius arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, a typical spiral galaxy, a member of the local group of galaxies, one galaxy among hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe most of which are moving away from each other at rates of speed higher than that predicted by the best minds of modern science. Some of which appear to be moving away from each other at speeds greater than the speed of light. Which has very smart people stumped. So work on that.

And, I love you.

As I said, I've recited this message hundreds if not thousands of times now and Jeremy still listens patiently, and corrects me if I make a mistake, and still smiles, and still gives me the occasional good-bye kiss or hug before heading off into the world.